3 Interview Tips for Software Engineer Hiring Managers
Interviewing is hard.
If it were up to most of us, we’d wave a magic wand that makes the perfect candidate appear in front of us, ready to code.
But the realities of searching for a perfect candidate – let alone one that is even good enough – are much more complex.
Those complexities multiply for new hiring managers who are thrown into their first interviews with nothing more than a pile of resumes to go by.
Do you really want to know the secret to having a great interview process?
Make the interview a great experience for the candidate.
When it’s easy for the candidate, it becomes easy for you – creating a smooth experience means fewer hiccups and angry messages in your inbox. It’s also a great way to limit stress and biases by providing candidates the best environment to showcase their skills, show you what they can do, and help you decide they are the right person for the job.
A great candidate experience can leave even disqualified candidates with a positive feeling, which goes a long way in these days of mass layoffs.
Creating a great candidate experience isn’t rocket science – follow these three tips, and you’ll be the hiring manager every candidate is talking about.
1. Make the interview a collaborative learning experience
How often does anyone on your team code by themselves without asking any questions? Using only the current knowledge they have in their heads of the product and development techniques?
So why do so many companies think this is an excellent way to conduct a live coding interview?
If you want to create an excellent way to see how candidates would work with you or your team, create a technical question that requires them to interact with you.
For example, with junior candidates, Marina Murashev – a senior software engineer at CoderPad – says: “’When interviewing junior engineers, I always ask them questions based on code they’re familiar with.”
This could be something as simple as a take-home project they worked on previously. That way, you can dive into how they came up with their take-home solution and then work with them to see how they’d build or improve upon it.
For more senior candidates, you can ask more open-ended questions during the interview about their decisions – why did they sacrifice styling the drop-down menu to spend more time on page performance? Why did they use a PUT instead of a PATCH HTTP verb when updating a database via API?
This kind of collaborative exercise also allows the candidate to see if YOUR work and communication style is a good fit for them.
Working collaboratively with them makes the interview more memorable – important not only because the candidate would be more likely to choose your company over another but also makes for much better Glassdoor reviews and referrals from the candidates.
Additionally, when you make them a member of the team for the duration of the interview by collaborating with them, you provide a helpful sense of belonging to the candidate, which reduces the stress of having someone hovering over their shoulder (or over a shared screen) and improves their performance during the interview.
2. Ensure candidates receive prompt feedback
The interview process often feels dehumanizing, and it often boils down to the fact that candidates often don’t feel respected for the time they’re putting into the process – and this most often happens when candidates are ghosted.
While it can be hard to remember to follow up when you are balancing your work as a manager with the time you’re putting in for the interview, a little appreciation and respect for the candidates’ investment in your interview process can go a long way.
For candidates, it means following up with them…
- By giving them feedback about their performance and how to improve, and
- As soon as possible after the interview to let them know if they’re moving to the next round or not.
There’s no better way to ruin your company’s name with candidates than to become synonymous with ghosting. They will gladly proclaim to the internet the dehumanizing interview processes your company has in place – and how do you think that will make future candidates feel when they read about it?
A little bit of courtesy goes a long way in differentiating your company’s candidate experience from that of your competitors.
If candidate follow-up is usually done by your talent acquisition (TA) team, you may need to reach out to the TA team to ensure they’re following up appropriately with your candidates – trust but verify.
Make it a point to follow up with the candidate directly or with the TA team as soon as you’ve decided to proceed with or stop the interview process for a particular candidate. Balancing hiring needs with your day-to-day work can be difficult, so you may need to set some reminders on your calendar.
You don’t need to provide an in-depth analysis of the interview either – a simple notification that they were or were not selected; if they were not selected, you could suggest some areas of improvement or resources they can use to improve their interviewing skills, if applicable.
3. Don’t use whiteboard algorithm questions in interviews
Do you want the best and the brightest engineers to ghost you during the interview process?
Tell them they’ll have to participate in a live whiteboard interview to implement a linked list. Or do a binary tree search. Or any other number of university-taught algorithms that are easily Googled and have no relevance to the job they’d be doing.
Jon Nguyen of NoWhiteBoard.org – a job aggregation website that shows job roles that don’t require whiteboard interviews – calls these kinds of interview questions “tech trivia.”
They don’t add anything substantial to your assessment of candidates other than their ability to remember a particular logic sequence that they probably learned decades ago.
Imagine how senior developers looking at these job ads feel when they see they’re required to spend time out of their busy schedule to build something that isn’t particularly challenging, won’t give them a better idea of what the company does, and can easily be looked up on StackOverflow. “Insulted” is an understatement.
The solution? Give them a scenario you’ve come across with your team.
For example, if your team recently worked on a project for a new IDE enhancement, you could have them demonstrate how they would implement the file tree.
Or maybe your team regularly works with third-party APIs to gather and display data – you could have the candidate demonstrate their ability to use one of those APIs to create a simple table.
Creating a good candidate question may take time – no one said this would be easy – but it’ll be worth it when you’re struggling to pick a candidate to fill a role because you have so many great ones to choose from.
Still need more help hiring great developers?
Your journey to becoming a skilled hiring manager may start here. But it certainly won’t end here – as the job market constantly evolves, your interviewing experiences will too.
If you still need more help improving your skills as an interviewer, check out these articles: